Family in trouble, ancient mysteries, warlords, and rocket ships that take off and land vertically, as God and Robert Heinlein intended. These is a short list of some of the awesome stuff to be found in Mike Kupari’s first solo novel, Her Brother’s Keeper.
It is hundreds of years in the future, on the far side of the Great Interregnum, a dark age where human interstellar civilization effectively ceased to be. Humanity is starting to build a spacefaring civilization again, rediscovering many of the lost artifacts and worlds of the Second Federation, many of which are far beyond their technical knowledge.
Catherine Blackwood, captain of the Polaris-class privateer Andromeda, has been called home by her estranged father for a contract: journey to the lawless frontier world of Zanzibar. Her brother has been taken hostage by a local warlord, and Catherine has to get him back. Her feuds with her father forgotten, she gets to work recruiting a ground-combat team, and heads out into the black, on the long road to Zanzibar and her imperilled family.
Along the way, the Andromeda and her crew encounter ancient derelicts, aliens, cultish colonists, a sort of space North Korea, and the enduring mysteries of Zanzibar. Also, since this is a Kupari novel, lots of action.
The worldbuilding is phenomenal. There are centuries of history to be plumbed in the universe and backstory that Mike has created. He doesn’t answer all of the mysteries presented in Her Brother’s Keeper, either, leaving some of them up in the air for either the reader to ponder, and/or to be dealt with in a later story. It lends a depth to the storytelling that is very well done.
The science is also gratifyingly hard. There’s no artificial gravity, spacecraft are described flying like spacecraft, not seagoing naval vessels or WWII warbirds. The ships are also laid out in a logical manner, where the direction of the decks, i.e., “down,” is toward the engines, so any artificial gravity is generated by thrust, rather than handwavium. No aircraft carriers in space, here.
At its heart, though, Her Brother’s Keeper is an adventure story, and so the science and worldbuilding, as well thought out as they are, take a back seat to the plot and the action. Both are well done and fast paced. You’ll be sorry to see it end, and probably find yourself asking, “When’s the sequel coming out?”
If you want a bit of a taste beforehand, Mike has a short story, set just before the beginning of Her Brother’s Keeper, entitled Ember of the Past, up on Baen.com. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, I don’t know what to tell you.
Her Brother’s Keeper is out today. You can order it here.